This is another question I often hear.
I actually started with a stand-alone book, "The Rainbow Knife." I shopped it to publishers and even had an agent who put it out for auction. I did get a nibble, with an enthusiastic reader's report from one publisher. But "The Rainbow Knife" was eventually turned down: not enough room on the list.
I heard this as "not commercial enough" and gave up on writing about the Hohokam for a time.
But I keep being drawn back to these amazingly complex and sophisticated prehistoric people, so I wrote "Swallowing the Sun" as a prequel. And then I took the end of "The Rainbow Knife" and decided I had to find out what happened after that. The novel I'm working on today, "Blows a Bitter Wind," is that story.
How much of what I put in my novels is true?
Maybe all of it, the background information, anyway. A lot of research has been done on the Hohokam, and I rely heavily on archaeology as the framework for the stories I tell.
There are also environmental events that must have influenced the Hohokam: floods and droughts, eclipses and comets, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, even solar storms and instances of the aurora borealis being visible as far south as Arizona. Some of these events have been documented in the physical record, while others appear to be shown in rock art or are testified to in other parts of the world.
Still other major events are told of in the folklore and mythology of related peoples, some of them the heirs to the Hohokam world.
But always it comes down to the stories that can be told of individual people within that world: what happens when these masters of the Arizona desert must fight for the survival of their people? Who stands to win, and who will lose, when floods destroy the canals or a freak storm darkens the sun?
These are the stories I tell.
I had my mother teach me to read when I was four, and I've never stopped. Now I can play with words all day long... it's the best job in the world.